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Johnson starts with "sorry'

Still a little stunned by the attention, Randy Johnson stood, stretched his 6-foot-10 frame and pulled on those famous pinstripes.

As dozens of cameras clicked away in a stuffy room packed with reporters, the Big Unit then made his first pitch as a member of the Yankees: an apology.

Johnson opened Tuesday's news conference by talking about his confrontation on a Manhattan sidewalk with a television cameraman on the way to his physical the previous day.

"It was unprofessional and, obviously, I feel very foolish today, at such a great moment in my career, that I would have to sit before all of you, or stand before all you, and apologize for my actions," Johnson said.

He said he had seen the video and felt "terrible" and "embarrassed."

"Come to one of the biggest media markets, one of the winningest franchises in the history of any sport, and that's the way I enter? I'm sorry, I don't know how many more times I can say that," he said. "I hope I can move on and can get another chance to prove that I'm worth coming here."

All he has to do is deliver the championship owner George Steinbrenner demands.

In a trade in the works for more than a month and agreed to Dec. 30, the Yankees sent right-hander Javier Vazquez, left-hander Brad Halsey, catching prospect Dioner Navarro and $9-million to the Diamondbacks for Johnson.

The five-time Cy Young Award winner got a $32-million, two-year contract extension that runs through 2007, and the deal was finally completed when he aced his medical tests Monday.

"I just want to win so bad. That's all I've ever wanted to do," the left-hander, 41, said. "I'm not scared of any challenge."

Persistence rewards Mets

NEW YORK _ In the end, timing and tenacity played key roles in Carlos Beltran signing with the wannabe Mets instead of the perennial champion Yankees.

A no-trade clause in the $119-million, seven-year contract, a recruiting trip to Puerto Rico by team brass and 31 consecutive days of phone calls didn't hurt.

Beltran was welcomed by his new team, ending a whirlwind courtship that began as a long-shot flirtation and evolved into the richest deal in Mets history. Already he was looking ahead, talking about a recruiting call he already placed to Carlos Delgado.

For the centerfielder, 27, the contract was about commitment.

"When I was in Kansas City, I was always worried about being traded for five years," he said. "I would not sign without a no-trade clause. I was looking for stability. The Mets said they would give me that stability."

When general manager Omar Minaya decided the Mets had a shot at Beltran, the team went after him aggressively.

"Starting at Thanksgiving, they called me 31 straight days," agent Scott Boras said. "They checked in every day, asking where Carlos was at (in his thinking), saying they wanted Carlos."

GREEN JOINS D'BACKS: Arizona introduced two-time All-Star outfielder Shawn Green hours after finalizing two trades that made it possible to acquire him.

The Diamondbacks got the left-handed slugger and $10-million from the Dodgers by giving up four minor-leaguers, Navarro and pitchers William Juarez, Danny Muegge and Beltran Perez.

Green said he believes Arizona is building a team that can contend for a pennant after it also acquired third baseman Troy Glaus and pitcher Russ Ortiz.

The D'backs also agreed with left-hander Shawn Estes on a $2.5-million, one-year contract and were close to trading Shea Hillenbrand to the Blue Jays for right-handed pitching prospect Adam Peterson.

CUBS: The team can manage the risk of concrete falling from the upper deck at Wrigley Field by using a protective barrier, such as netting, engineers said. Wiss, Janney, Elstner and Associates Inc. also recommended regular inspection and removal programs.

DODGERS: Right-hander Derek Lowe finalized a $36-million, four-year contract after Los Angeles completed its trade to send Green to Arizona.

INDIANS: Two-time MVP Juan Gonzalez agreed to a minor-league contract that could pay him up to $2.55-million, if the slugger can remain healthy.

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